By Margot Mifflin
Updated July 14, 1995 at 04:00 AM EDT

Bold, blunt, and cinematic, poet Mary Karr’s memoir of growing up in Texas in the ’60s is nothing short of superb. Born in a refinery town that ”formed one of the blackest squares on the world cancer map,” Karr says she was raised by alcoholic parents — her father was a Gulf Oil union man; her mother, a failed artist with a string of ex-husbands, whose dark past and darker temperament provide much of the drama of this riveting story. A casualty of the repressive ’50s, Karr’s mother is a vampish bookworm whose bad luck, thwarted ambition, and stormy disposition have near-fatal consequences for her daughters. Writing with steely precision, Karr beautifully resolves her love for her dysfunctional parents with her tragicomic take on them. The Liar’s Club reads like fiction but cuts deeper for the hard truths Karr dares to quarry from a past a less courageous author might have played for sympathy. A